The Yangtze River Basin Is Drying Up, WWF Says
According to a new WWF study, many Yangtze River Basin lakes are shrinking dramatically and could dry up completely if measures aren’t taken to reverse this trend.
AsianScientist (Jan. 27, 2012) – According to a new WWF study, many Yangtze River Basin lakes are shrinking dramatically and could dry up completely if measures aren’t taken to stem the impacts of climate change, increased industrialization, and urbanization along China’s longest river. The 6,300 km river supports the livelihoods of nearly one-third of China’s population.
“The Yangtze Conservation and Development Report 2011 shows that a comprehensive action plan is an absolute necessity to ensure the future of this irreplaceable resource,” said Jim Grandoville, CEO of WWF China.
“WWF will be working with partners and seek solutions towards the protection and sustainable usage of the lakes along the Yangtze,” he added.
As a result of climate change, increased glacial melt in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau would mean more water in the Yangtze over the short term. However, after the glaciers are gone – and with them the source of the Yangtze River – available water resources will decline. Lakes that depend on glacial melt could shrink or dry up completely as a result of the massive water shortages in headwater regions.
Pollution, population, and land reclamation have also had detrimental effects on the Yangtze. From 1950-2010, increased land reclamation for agriculture and industrial development caused the Yangtze to lose approximately two-thirds of its lakes. The corresponding decrease in water storage capacity means that smaller floods now have the potential to inflict much more damage.
Rapid population growth and economic development, as well as excessive fish farming, has resulted in serious water pollution issues. Eutrophication, a process whereby excessive nutrients diminish water quality in water bodies, is widespread, greatly affecting the ability of lakes to provide safe drinking water. In 2009 alone, over 33 billion tons of sewage was discharged into the Yangtze River Basin.
Besides affecting human health, all these changes are also putting increased pressure on many of the endemic species found in the Yangtze, including the finless porpoise and Chinese carps.
The report also emphasizes the importance of mitigating the accumulative impacts of large infrastructure projects such as the Three Gorges Dam and South to North Water Transfer Project on the Yangtze River, especially downstream of it.
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